Spring has finally sprung, and with that, wedding season is launching into full gear! Brides around the world want something memorable and unique, but finding that perfect decor can get expensive… not to mention, what do you do with all those vases and plates once the event is over? In comes Nimble Well – a vintage rental business providing beautiful decor to weddings and events of all sizes – allowing you to have a beautiful event, without the sourcing trouble.
Kelly Connolly, founder of Nimble Well, gives us insight to this great business:
Tabletop fantasy – this and all images on the page courtesy of Nimble Well!
1. You started Nimble Well after finding unique rentals weren’t a big option while planning for your own wedding. How did you turn this finding into a business?
First there was the idea of starting a vintage rental business, then I talked to a lot of people, I read a lot, I made my own map of the Chicago wedding industry–how vendors work, what their domains are, what their styles are. I called people I admired and I went to a few networking events and I made a few friends. I got my first client’s after being in the Daily Candy wedding guide, and then it gained momentum.
2. For a rental business like this – or any business that has a lot of inventory – you need space. At what point did you decide to get a showroom?
I started off in the second bedroom in my apartment with one utility shelf, but after about 6 months of collecting, before I even had clients, that was too small and I had to find a commercial space. I looked at street-level spots with display windows, but I’m really happy I found a space with Sarah Drake Design. It’s in a big loft building, and hours are by appointment which makes the most sense for me know as I’m out scouting or doing deliveries often. It has lots of natural light which is at the top of my musts, and a freight elevator right outside my door. And sharing a studio with Sarah has been great. I don’t have a ton of space for inventory, but so far, that has been really good for me. I can’t make too many mistakes in buying and it’s forced me to focus the inventory on tabletop–cake stands and stemware are the biggest collections. It’s convenient, and pretty much necessary now, to able to have the inventory available for clients to browse and pull from and make selections in person.
3. Without giving away too many secret shopping locations, where do you tend to find the best pieces to add to your collection? Any tips for someone who loves the Nimble Well style, and wants to add a single piece to their home?
When I want a particular thing, my method is to look with a purpose. For instance, I don’t know much about furniture, so if I want a great lamp I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll start by browsing on Pinterest or sites like Design Sponge or Apartment Therapy or magazines like Elle Decor or Dwell to refine the search. I’ll browse shops in Andersonville and see what I like and don’t like. Maybe I’ll find something I really like and it’s at a price I’m happy with and my mission is complete. But often I’ll find something but it’s more than I want to pay. But now I know what I’m looking for, what it’s called, who makes it. Then, I’ll look online at sites like Craigslist, eBay, 1stdibs, etsy, and see what the price range is. Then, I’ll go to thrift stores, flea markets, estate sales and look for it–talk to dealers about what I’m looking for and they point me to places they know. Sometimes it takes a little while, and I have to resist the urge to pay too much or settle for something I like less, but then I find it in the corner of some stall buried under five other things at less than half I was willing to pay and it’s a total rush.
4. You recently started a blog series titled “Labor of Love” – shadowing wedding professionals to educate yourself and show off their work. Tell us about the inspiration and a favorite finding so far.
Shadowing wedding professionals is something that falls in the middle of the Venn diagram of what I am interested in and what I think can be useful to people planning their weddings. For a long time one of my favorite things is hearing co-workers talking at work–at the grocery store, coffee shop, Home Depot, it doesn’t really matter. It’s especially satisfying if it’s a little furtive. I like it so much. I guess that makes me a workplace voyeur. I wouldn’t let anyone follow me around, so it’s really lucky that so many people have agreed. I’m basically doing that with permission and a camera now.
Favorite finding: Both make-up artists and bakers use airbrushes.
5. The wedding industry is a beautiful and – to the outside world – super fun career path. Any advice to those looking to break into it?
My main advice would be to define what it is you want to contribute and get to know the businesses in your category in your local market and also in other markets. Then, find the local businesses you want to work with. It’s been said a lot that the wedding and event industry in Chicago is collegial compared to other large cities, and I’ve found that to be true. It’s great to be able to working with good people whose work I admire. I think of Chicago, in general, as the kind of place that you can find good people to work with and will be supportive once you show up and people see what you’re about.
Bonus Question: What has surprised you the most in your career?
I’ve wanted to own by own business for a long time but I never imagined it would be in weddings and events. Looking back now, it makes sense because I value the freedom to be out in the world and not in an office full-time, I enjoy collaborating and I like finding things that are hard to find.
To get to know more about Nimble Well and view their amazing collection of vintage rentals (she has over 100 cake stands, people!), go to http://www.nimblewell.com, or make an appointment for her Ravenswood showroom by calling 773.680.0229.
Mini Mighty Mondays is a bi-monthly blog series, featuring interviews with creative individuals or small businesses to emphasize that you don’t have to be a huge company to have huge results. Interested in being a part, or know someone who’d be a great addition? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!